First Steps Wellness Centre

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Frequently Asked Questions

Spinal Cord Injuries – Can You Walk Again?

A study conducted at FSWC by students from the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Regina found that in 12% of our cases, clients have been able to walk again after a spinal cord injury, compared to less than 0.5% of post rehabilitation for those who don’t attend. In addition, they found that 94% of our clients had been able to make functional gains resulting in increased independence and quality of life.
Due to generous support from sponsors, donors, fundraisers and grants, FSWC is able to offer service at $90 per hour and provide nearly $500,000 worth of therapy equipment. Our fees are lower than any other private neurorehabilitation centre in Canada and most of the US. All fees go directly to operating costs and staff training.
FSWC’s most radical characteristic is the quantity of therapy hours our clients participate in. We operate under the assumption that in order for adaptation to occur, our clients need to train like Olympic level athletes. The amount of time you will spend with one or more therapists at FSWC will be one of the largest differences you will notice, along with the unique methods we use, in comparison to conventional therapy. Since our goal is to restore or create function most of your time at FSWC will be spent working below your level of injury.
We use specially designed activity-based exercise programs to stimulate the body below the level of injury. As well, we have specialized equipment designed specifically for people with a SCI and applied by therapists with a significant amount of experience working with SCI. Scientific research confirms that nerves can regrow, but only if they are stimulated.
Research has shown that the nervous system can regain function even after a severe injury. This is referred to as neuroplasticity and simply means that the central nervous system is not hard-wired but is able to find a way to rebuild itself to some degree even after severe injuries.
94% of FSWC’s clients regain some form of function below their level of injury. These improvements can range from improving the motor function of abdominal and postural muscles that assist with sitting stability, to voluntary contraction of large muscle groups in the arm or legs. The amount of improvement that you gain depends on several variables such as the level and severity of your injury, you current fitness level, years post injury, and the amount of time you spend working on your functional goals. For example, one of our clients was a complete quadriplegic and has now regained movement in her arms and is able to feed herself without assistance. This is a major improvement in her quality of life.
This depends on the severity of the injury, the age of the person injured, how motivated the client is and many other factors. However, most research indicates that the first six months following an injury is when the majority of changes occur, so time from injury to the beginning of therapy is a factor as well. Typically, improvements will be seen sometime near the end of the third month of therapy assuming that attendance is approximately 10 hours/week.
Yes, the underlying concept of our therapy is that the body will find a way to adapt if it is placed under the appropriate stress. While the physiological mechanisms are still being studied, the results are apparent – if you stimulate the body below the level of injury with exercise, the body will adapt and a level of function will be regained. If not, the muscles and the nerves will atrophy, making functional gains more difficult.
Unfortunately, there is no real way of telling. However, we do know that the sooner the program is started, the younger you are, the more work you put into it and how motivated you are to do the exercises both at our facility and at home, the more progress you will see.
The only real way to participate in our program is to be at one of our facilities. How often you come into the facility and how much work you put in will all contribute to how much progress you ultimately make. We custom-design programs tailored to your specific situation so there are options available for those unable to travel. Please contact us to discuss our home program option.
Yes, while we understand not everyone will be able to commit to full time therapy, this is the best way to see results. We have clients that attend 2-8 hours per week that participate in our maintenance program. Our maintenance clients are still able to make functional gains; however, it takes much longer to produce results. Majority of our maintenance clients attend therapy for the health and wellness benefits of exercise, rather than to produce functional gains.
Highly motivated individuals who have obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology and have or are working towards their CSEP-CEP. CSEP-CEP stands for Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology – Clinical Exercise Physiologist. Our staff is committed to researching and finding new ways to improve the overall health, independence and quality of life of all clients we work with.
Please contact your insurance provider to discuss if they will cover your therapy. We provide exercise therapy, and staff at FSWC hold CSEP-CEP designations. We are willing to provide any paperwork required by your insurance company for participation in our programs.
Yes – please contact us about speaking to people who are currently or who have recently attended our program.

First Steps Wellness Centre

First Steps Wellness Centre (FSWC) is a non-profit organization with charitable status. We opened our doors in 2010 and have become the leading facility in Canada for spinal cord injury and neurorehabilitation. We provide innovative activity-based therapy (ABT) for people with spinal cord injuries and associated disorders.

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